Australian asylum seeker deal no solution
The Australian Prime Minister’s deal with PNG over asylum seekers is little more than a short term vote catcher that
needs to be challenged says ChangeMakers Refugee Forum. According to ChangeMakers’ General Manager Tim O’Donovan the
deal is discriminatory, is in direct conflict with the 1951 Refugee Convention of which Australia is a signatory, and
has been designed to win votes rather than respond to a real issue.
‘Unfortunately, despite Kevin Rudd’s claim to the contrary, this has nothing to do with saving the lives of those
claiming asylum. This is about creating a short term ‘solution’ which is designed to win the Labor Party support and
boost Kevin Rudd’s chances of winning the next election’ says O’Donovan.
Under Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention, signatories have agreed not to discriminate against asylum seekers
based on their mode of arrival. ‘In developing the deal with PNG, Australia is clearly discriminating against asylum
seekers who arrive via boat. People who arrive via plane are able to claim asylum in Australia, if you arrive via boat
ChangeMakers has grave concerns about the conditions and support asylum seekers will receive under the PNG deal.
‘Already the UNHCR has been extremely critical of the conditions on Manus Island. If the tents and appalling conditions
that people are subject to on Manus are an indication of what refugees can expect if they are resettled in PNG, then the
bar has been moved to a new low. This is indeed a sad day for asylum seekers not only in this region but all across the
world. The deal makes a mockery of what Australia and PNG committed to in becoming a signatory to the 1951 Refugee
‘People who claim asylum are doing so because they are in need of support and in most cases are genuine refugees’ says
O’Donovan. According to ChangeMakers over 90% of people who arrive on boats claiming asylum in Australia are later
deemed to be refugees.
ChangeMakers acknowledges the political challenge that asylum seekers have become in Australia but states the so called
‘problem’ needs to be seen from a global perspective. ‘We have over 1.5 million people who have fled Syria to
neighbouring countries in the last two years. The latest figures available suggest about 11,000 asylum seekers arriving
via boats have sought protection in Australia in the last 9 months. If Australia is serious about saving lives they need
to be working with countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and New Zealand to develop long term sustainable solutions.
This deal does nothing to address the real reasons why people are willing to put their lives at risk and get on a boat.
A real regional solution would do that. That’s what’s required.’